”How come I get a retainer and a clarinet, and James Bond gets an Aston Martin?” whines 16-year-old superspy Cody Banks (Frankie Muniz). Well, for starters, Cody, you’ve got no charisma, no style, and, mercifully, no seduction on your résumé. In that way, he’s got a lot in common with real spies, the hollow-eyed android types unencumbered by personality. This time out, in Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London, Cody’s in the U.K. chasing after a mind-control device, which might sound nifty to kids who think the Manchurian Candidate is a take-out option. But London itself is so indifferently filmed (and its residents so indifferently stereotyped), it might as well be Toronto. Anthony Anderson does little to help, cuffed as he is by the ”handler” (read: Man Friday) role. (Nyuk-nyuk attempts to equate English classism with American racism careen toward the offensive.)
At bottom, there’s just too much spy in young Cody, and too little kid. The writers might’ve taken (another) page from the ”Spy Kids” playbook and infused the action with youth relevance – e.g., why not have the mind-control doohickey afflict Cody with snotty Anglophilia and an affected accent? (Producer Madonna could double as dialect coach.) That’s what most kids bring back from England, not exploding Mentos.